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Editorial Articles

Issue no 29, 14 - 20 October 2023

The Blueprint for Sustainable

Food Security

Madhubanti Dutta

Akash Kumar

Achieving a Zero-Hunger, Zero-Carbon food system is a complex and multifaceted endeavor that requires collaboration between governments, businesses, communities, and individuals. It involves addressing not only food security and nutrition but also the broader challenges of climate change and environmental sustainability. It is a critical and ambitious goal in the pursuit of a more equitable, healthy, and sustainable world.

India has played a significant role in addressing global food demand during times of the COVID crisis, exemplified by its export of over 1.21 Lakh Metric Tonnes of food grains. Moreover, India's proactive efforts have led to the adoption of a United Nations resolution, supported by more than 70 nations worldwide, designating 2023 as the International Year of Millets. India is actively promoting natural farming practices and reviving the consumption of nutritious and traditional food grains such as millets as a sustainable approach to ensuring food security. Millets are viewed as a viable solution to the global challenges of malnutrition and hunger. As part of this initiative, India served millets-based cuisines to  delegates in the G20 meetings and events.

This initiative, known as Climate-Smart Agriculture, represents a practical and innovative contribution by India to global food security. It underscores India's commitment to sustainable agriculture practices and the use of resilient and nutritious crops like millets to address the pressing issues of climate change and food security on a global scale.

The G20, in its declaration, has undertaken novel initiatives related to food security, such as the Agricultural Market Information System (AMIS), which aims to improve market transparency and reduce food price volatility, and the Global Agriculture and Food Security Program (GAFSP), which provides funding to support smallholder farmers in developing countries. Substaintial progress can be achieved towards achieving global food security and nutrition by implementing both short-term and long-term strategies that address hunger issues, promote climate-smart agriculture, and build inclusive agricultural value chains and food systems. Here are the key points:

1.      Climate-Smart Agriculture: Implementing climate-smart agriculture practices is crucial for ensuring food production remains resilient in the face of changing climatic conditions. This approach involves adapting agricultural practices to the prevailing climate and environmental conditions.

2.      Inclusive Agricultural Value Chains: Building inclusive agricultural value chains and food systems ensures that all stakeholders, including smallholder farmers, have opportunities to participate and benefit. This can help improve access to markets and fair prices for agricultural products.

3.      Millet Research and Awareness: Leading initiatives to promote millet research and raise awareness of millet consumption is important. This can involve bringing together technical experts to discuss ways to increase the shelf life of millets and expand their consumption beyond traditional regions.

4.      Investments in Rural Markets: Investing in rural markets and value chains is essential for increasing the supply of diverse foods, benefiting both urban and rural consumers. Expanding the food basket and ensuring year-round food supply is crucial.

5.      Diversifying Agricultural Policies: Shifting agricultural policies away from a sole focus on staple grains to a more diverse food basket can improve food security and nutrition.

6.      Public Health Investments: Alongside food security efforts, investments in clean drinking water, sanitation, and public health facilities are essential to address issues like child malnutrition and overall health.

These commitments reflect the G20 leaders' recognition of the inter-connectedness of global food systems, climate change, and sustainable development. They underscore the importance of collaboration, innovation, and responsible resource management in achieving food security for all and fostering a more resilient and equitable world. Based on the findings from the Global Hunger Index 2022 and Global Food Security Index 2022, an examination of the rankings of BRICS nations has revealed that India's position in both indices highlights the urgent need for immediate action.

India's successful experiences in designing and implementing comprehe-nsive and impactful interventions to address food and nutrition security serve as a valuable model for other nations. These initiatives, such as the Public Distribution System (PDS), Prime Minister's Overarching Scheme for Holistic Nutrition (POSHAN) Abhiyaan, Pradhan Mantri Matru Vandana Yojana, Anganwadi Services Scheme, and the Adolescent Girls Scheme under the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS), have made significant strides in ensuring access to nutritious food and improving nutritional security.

Recently, the Ministry for Women and Child Development launched Poshan 2.0 and encouraged all Aspirational Districts to establish a Poshan Vatika, or nutrition garden, as part of the Nutrition Month (Poshan Mah) initiative. The primary focus is on holistically addressing malnutrition through a life-cycle approach, a pivotal element of Mission Poshan 2.0. This initiative is driven by the motto 'Suposhit Bharat, Sakshar Bharat, Sashakt Bharat' (Nutrition-rich India, Educated India, Empowered India), underscoring the significance of nutrition, education, and empowerment in fortifying the nation's health and resilience.

The Government of India has several schemes in place to ensure food security for its citizens. Some of the key schemes include:

·         National Food Security Act, 2013: The NFSA is the most important food security scheme in India. It provides subsidised food grains to over 800 million people, or about 67% of the population. Under the NFSA, eligible households receive subsidised rice, wheat, and coarse grains at prices of Rs.3, Rs.2, and Rs.1 per kg, respectively.

·         Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana: The PMGKAY is a special food security scheme that was launched by the Government of India in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Under the PMGKAY, eligible households receive 5 kg of free food grains per person per month. The scheme has been extended until September 2023.

·         Antyodaya Anna Yojana, 2000: The AAY is a food security scheme for the poorest households in India. Under the AAY, eligible households receive 35 kg of food grains per month at subsidised prices.

·         Mid-Day Meal Scheme, 2008: The Mid-Day Meal Scheme provides free meals to school children on weekdays. The scheme covers over 120 million children across India.

In addition to these schemes, the Government of India also provides a few other food security programs, such as the Public Distribution System (PDS), the Targeted Public Distribution System (TPDS), and the Food for Work program.

The commitments made by the G20 leaders reflect a comprehensive and forward-looking approach to addressing global agricultural challenges and achieving food security. Here are key points from their commitments:

1.      Access to and Efficient Use of Fertilizers: Promoting access to fertilizers and their efficient use is essential for enhancing agricultural productivity. Fertilizers provide essential nutrients to crops, and their responsible use can improve crop yields and soil health.

2.      Reinforcing Local Fertilizer Production: Encouraging local fertilizer production can reduce dependency on imports, enhance supply chain resilience, and contribute to food security.

3.      Focus on Soil Health: The commitment to soil health underscores the importance of sustainable land management practices that maintain and improve soil quality.

4.      Innovation and Investment: Prioritising innovation and investments in agriculture is key to boosting productivity, reducing food waste, and creating more sustainable and climate-friendly food systems. Technological advancements can play a vital role in achieving these goals.

5.      Support for Developing Nations: Affirming support for developing nations in their food security efforts highlights the importance of global cooperation and solidarity. Building capacity in these countries and assisting them in addressing their specific food security challenges is crucial for achieving equitable progress.

The G77 declaration 2023 underlined the crises world over: COVID-19, climate change, and current geopolitical tensions, which have created additional challenges in the eradication of poverty, food security, energy security, the cost of living (inflation), and access to concessional financing, undermined the achievement of the SDGs, disproportionately impacted the recovery efforts, particularly of developing countries, and reversed development gains of at least a decade.

In the Declaration 2023, the G77 nations reaffirmed their commitment to take urgent actions needed for a coordinated and comprehensive multilateral response to the develop-mental challenges and the need to support the national efforts of developing countries to build resilience against future shocks.

India has also benefited from the G77's work to promote sustainable agriculture, reduce food waste and loss, and improve market access for smallholder farmers. In addition, the G77's work to strengthen international cooperation on food security has been beneficial for India. India has a strong interest in ensuring that there is a global food security governance system that is inclusive and equitable. The G77's work to promote cooperation between developing countries on food security issues has also been beneficial for India.

National Food Security in India underscores the interconnectedness of food security with economic stability, national security, and inclusive development. Here are the key points:

1.      Agricultural Development: Incre-asing agricultural production and improving distribution networks are crucial for achieving food security. Investments in modern irrigation systems, agricultural research, market infrastructure, and efficient transportation networks can enhance food supply and affordability.

2.      Awareness Campaigns: Raising awareness about the significance of National Food Security and its link to overall national security is essential. Such awareness campaigns can help people understand the importance of resilience in the face of global shocks and crises.

3.      Resilience: National Food Security contributes to resilience against various crises, including pandemics, wars, and natural disasters. Ensuring an adequate food supply during such crises is vital for the stability of the nation.

4.      Economic Stability: Increasing agricultural production and improving distribution can lead to higher employment opportunities and improved incomes for farmers. This, in turn, can drive higher GDP growth and raise living standards for citizens, contributing to economic stability.

5.      Inclusive Development: National Food Security is crucial for achieving inclusive development. It ensures that adequate food resources are available to all, promoting the well-being of the entire population.

Digital transformation plays a pivotal role in addressing food security and nutrition challenges in India. It can streamline processes, improve data management, enhance efficiency, and empower stakeholders in the food supply chain. Here are key aspects of how digital transformation is contributing to food security and nutrition in India:

1.      Agricultural Technology Adoption: Farmers in India are increasingly leveraging digital tools and technologies. Mobile apps, sensor-based devices, and precision agriculture techniques help farmers monitor crops, soil conditions, and weather patterns. This information enables them to make informed decisions, optimise resource use, and increase agricultural productivity.

2.      Supply Chain Management: Digital systems are being used to improve the efficiency of the food supply chain. This includes tracking and tracing products from farm to fork, which enhances food safety and reduces food wastage.

3.      Food Delivery and Nutrition Apps: Mobile apps and digital services are being used to deliver food and nutrition interventions directly to beneficiaries. This includes the distribution of supplementary nutrition to children and pregnant women through digital vouchers and doorstep delivery.

4.      Government Initiatives: The Indian government has launched digital initiatives to enhance food security. For example, the 'e-NAM' (National Agriculture Market) is an online platform that connects agricultural markets across the country, facilitating efficient trade.

5.      Nutrition Monitoring: Digital tools and mobile apps are used to monitor the nutritional status of individuals, especially children and pregnant women, in programs like ICDS and POSHAN Abhiyaan.

Accessible, affordable, and clean energy is pivotal for economic growth, poverty reduction, and mitigating climate change. Meanwhile, food security is the cornerstone of human well-being, public health, and social stability. As we move forward, it is imperative to continue prioritising food security, recognising its critical role in achieving broader goals such as sustainable development, climate resilience, and the protection of human rights. Through collaboration, innovation, and a shared vision of a world free from hunger, we can work together to build a future where every person is nourished by an abundant and sustainable food supply.

The authors are Senior Research Fellow and Senior Research Associate, World Energy Council India Secretariat. Feedback on this article can be sent to: feedback.employmentnews@gmail.com

Image courtesy: United Nations

Views expressed are personal.